24 Dec European Christmas Traditions

The most well-known Christmas traditions, of course, is Father Christmas. Who rides in from the North Pole with his reindeer on a sleigh. Bearing gifts for the children (and adults!) on the 25th day of their advent calendar.

Here are some less well-known European Christmas traditions which may have escaped your attention.


Have you heard of the Yule Cat? This not-so-friendly kitty plays a big part in the Icelandic festivities.

The Yule Cat is a giant, mean, cat who goes on the prowl during the Christmas season. The Yule Cat eats people who don’t have new, warm clothes to wear for Christmas.


More unpleasantness comes from Austria, where they look out for a half-goat, half demonic, horned beast called Krampus.

This nasty piece of work is said to take ‘bad’ children to Hell – or even eat them! Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) falls on December 5th.  Krampus is said to hand out lumps of coal or bundles of twigs, rather than ‘real’ presents.


The evil continues in Norway, where it is customary to hide brooms on Christmas Eve, in case witches try to steal them and fly away on them!

A more pleasant side of a Norwegian Christmas, however, is Pepperkakebyen, the world’s biggest gingerbread city. Pepperkakebyen is built every Christmas in the city of Bergen. Miniature houses, trains, cars and ships are made from gingerbread. Schools and kindergartens contribute to making a miniature version of Bergen – all in gingerbread.

Czech Republic

In the Czech Republic, there is a Christmas tradition which helps single women test out their chances of getting hitched in the coming year. On Christmas Eve, single women should stand facing away from a door and throw a shoe over their shoulder. If it lands with the toe pointing towards the door, they will supposedly get married in the next 12 months.

Another Czech tradition surrounding marriage occurs at the start of the Christmas season on December 4th. A single woman should take a branch from a cherry tree and place it in water on that day. If it blooms by Christmas Eve, she’ll get married in the following year.


Do you like porridge? Personally, I hate it, but Nisse loves it. Who? Nisse is an important Christmas character in Denmark, a mischievous gnome who is said to be easily offended. So families leave a bowl of porridge outside their houses for him, so that he won’t play jokes on their household.

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